Urging All Veterans to Participate in Veterans Pride Initiative
I would like to urge all veterans to participate in the new Veterans Pride Initiative this coming Veterans Day, November 11, 2006 by wearing the medals they earned during their military service.
It will be uplifting for all Americans to see our nation's decorated heroes as they gather together with their families and neighbors at Veterans Day ceremonies and parades on the day we thank them for their service.
VA Secretary James Nicholson has called for America's veterans to "kindle a new spark of patriotism" with the wearing of their honors and to "remind their fellow Americans of the pride in their hearts." Many major Veterans Service Organizations are supporting this call for recognition of our heroes.
The Veterans Pride Initiative is based on a tradition of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day ceremonies in Sydney, Australia on April 25th. ANZAC Day is a most important national holiday in Australia, a combination of our Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and veterans there wear their military decorations wherever they go on that day. ANZAC Day commemorates the more than 8,000 Australians and New Zealanders killed in the battle of Gallipoli, in World War I, and now honors all veterans in those countries.
For more information and where veterans can receive information about how to replace mislaid medals, go to the VA web page: http://www.va.gov/veteranspride/, or to receive latest Veterans Pride Initiative updates, subscribe at the following Internet address: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/opalist_listserv.cfm.
Calling for a Total Force Bill to Expand Veterans' Education Benefits
As Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives Veterans' Affairs Committee, I am in the forefront of those calling for the modernization of the Montgomery GI Bill to recognize the increased role of the National Guard and Reserves in the Nation's defense. I am proud to announce that I am an original co-sponsor of H.R. 6250, legislation to enhance veterans' education benefits.
Nearly 62 years have passed since the enactment of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, the landmark legislation commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights. Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the Montgomery GI Bill, an equally important measure that updated the original GI Bill. Now is the time to develop a Total Force GI Bill for the 21st century.
The legislation would organize all Montgomery GI Bill programs within a single area of federal law under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It would allow members of the National Guard and Reserves to use their education benefits after they separate from military service, for a period of up to 10 years. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 500,000 National Guard and Reservists have been activated, and approximately 30% of the troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are citizen-soldiers.
These patriots have earned and deserve high quality education and training benefits that can be used even after they separate from military service. I want to work in a bi-partisan fashion to improve and modernize the Montgomery GI Bill to reflect the current demands of military service and to enable service members and veterans to avail themselves of higher education and vocational training.
"We Need a Paper Trail!" Supporting Legislation To Strengthen Voting Reliability and Accuracy
I have co-sponsored H.R. 6187 and H.R. 6200, both of which amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002. These bills strengthen voting reliability and accuracy by requiring a paper trial for all electronic voting systems.
Both bills help avoid problems caused by software glitches, computer hackers, improperly trained poll workers, or power outages that could intentionally or accidentally alter or erase voting data placed in the new machines.
There is a nationwide concern about electronic voting systems. Experts have expressed doubts about their accuracy. With more states switching from paper ballots to electronic voting systems, it is important that the government work to ensure reliability in our voting systems.
H.R. 6187 would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 by reimbursing jurisdictions for amounts paid or incurred in preparing, producing and using contingency paper ballots. H.R. 6200 would amend the help America Vote Act of 2002 by requiring states to conduct Presidential elections using paper ballots and to count those ballots by hand.
The bills help keep our elections accurate and free of fraud. In the past, we saw how a few votes can make a big difference. We should do everything possible to make sure all votes are accurately counted!
Enhancing Affordability and Competitiveness of Specialty Crops
I have co-sponsored H.R. 6193, legislation which continues previous Congressional efforts to enhance the specialty crop industry's efforts to provide an abundant affordable supply of fruits and vegetables, while remaining competitive in the global marketplace.
The legislation defines the term "specialty crops" as "fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture)." The bill reinforces previous efforts by Congress to assist with the challenges faced by specialty crop farmers in areas such as marketing, nutrition outreach, international trade, research for improvements in crop production, pest and disease control, and conservation practices.
This bill is an investment in our nation's public health. It bolsters marketing and promotion campaigns aimed at increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables across the nationan integral component to a healthy lifestyle.
H.R. 6193 works to continue and expand upon previous Congressional efforts to ensure an abundant and affordable supply of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and other specialty crops for American consumers and international markets.
This bill is important to the Imperial Valley because it recognizes the vital role of specialty crops in our nation's economy and helps our farmers stay on top of the competition both in the domestic and international marketplace.
Recommending Valley Resident Sgt. Luis Montes for Military Award
I am proud to announce my support for a military medal upgrade for Imperial Valley resident, Sergeant Luis Montes. Sergeant Montes lost his life rescuing two fellow soldiers from their burning tank after a bomb exploded beneath the vehicle on September 1, near Abu Ghraib, Iraq. As a result of his actions, the United States Army awarded Sergeant Montes a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Sergeant Luis Montes' selfless actions saved the lives of two soldiers. He is a hero and particularly deserving of a high medal of recognition for his valiant efforts.
I have written to the Secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, asking that he upgrade Sergeant Montes' Bronze Star Medal.
Sergeant Montes' life serves as a true inspiration for all. Born in Mexicali and raised in El Centro, Montes re-enlisted for a three-year tour in Iraq after receiving his U.S. citizenship. Sergeant Luis Montes was buried in El Centro on September 16.
Citizen of the Month
San Diego County
I am proud to honor three outstanding counselors at Mark Twain High School as my October "Citizens of the Month" for their commitment to education and their leadership in opening a new campus at Morse High School.
Recognizing the growing number of students at Mark Twain High School, Ethel Lapham, Patricia Khalifa, and Melissa Barker combined their efforts to accelerate the completion of the continuation campus at Morse High School. Programs at the Morse campus focus on preparing students for college.
Ethel Lapham began her career in San Diego City School 27 years ago as a Guidance Assistant at Hamilton Elementary School. Patricia J. Khalifa holds a Bachelor of Education degree in drama and music from the University of Central Oklahoma. During her 4 years as Head Counselor for the Twain Marston site, Patricia improved attendance by riding the busses and trolleys to student's homes in support and recognition of the distance they traveled each day. Melissa Barker holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Hawaii with a major in U.S. History. Since arriving at Twain two years ago, Melissa has strived to create a student oriented counseling center that provides the "at-risk" student population at Twain with opportunities to succeed academically and personally.
I would like to congratulate the outstanding work of these extraordinary counselors.
Presenting Ethel Lapham, Patricia J. Khalifa, and Melissa Barker with my October Citizens of the Month Award. Also pictured are Principal Mike Rood and Vice-Principal Jo Berman
The 2006 Binational Health Week Task Force received my Imperial County Citizens of the Month Award for their achievement and impact within our community in Imperial County and beyond. The taskforce was chaired by Monica Torres from Clinica de Salud Del Pueblo and included representatives from all over Imperial County, as well as participants from Mexicali.
For the sixth year in a row, Imperial County participated in the Binational Health Week, which was held from October 5th to October 13th. The taskforce worked diligently to obtain funding from the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, the California-Mexico Health Initiative, as well as donations from local businesses and organizations.
The theme for this years campaign was "Health is Joy." Approximately 2,000 Imperial County Constituents attended a week full of events focused on health. The Taskforce demonstrated their leadership by putting together such events as health workshops, Women's Health Fair, Farm Workers' Health Fair, Youth Well Being Tours, and a closing "Bailando por su Salud," which served as the closing event focusing on baby boomers and their families, where a healthy lifestyle was promoted with activities such as dancing, to encourage healthy living.
Through their great efforts, the 2006 Binational Health Week Taskforce is definitely leaving a legacy of leadership amongst out community.
Presenting the 2006 Binational Health Week Task Force with my October Citizen of the Month Award
Constituent Mail Bag
Dear Representative Filner,
The corporation my wife and I own has five employees - four are residents of Mexico - all can legally work in the United States - all file income tax returns in the U. S. and pay taxes here.
This morning, the lines to enter the U. S. were so long, it took our employees two hours to cross the border - they had to start at six in the morning to get to work by eight. I have heard even those people who pay $120 for the new express pass spend one hour in line.
I understand that our borders must be guarded more diligently in these times, however only four of ten lines were open at the new port. Possibly you might request that Homeland Security in the future be even more vigilant in ten out of ten lines. I don't think it's necessary for our government to inconvenience taxpayers to this extent.
Congressman Filner Replies:
Thank you for contacting me about wait times at the Calexico border.
I wholeheartedly agree with you! Long wait times place a heavy burden on our border communities and negatively impacts local businesses. Every line at the port should be open 24 hours a day to ensure a quick and efficient crossing. The Federal Government needs to invest more resources and technology in our ports of entry so that the Department of Homeland Security can work efficiently and effectively to protect our nation's security. Rest assured, I will continue to fight to improve the efficiency of our ports and reduce waiting times for all.
I appreciate your advocacy on this very important issue!
Useful Website: National Diabetes Month
November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes, a growing epidemic in the United States, touches more than 20 million Americans. The National Diabetes Association can provide you with information about the disease, early detection guidance, nutritional advice, and healthy recipes that can provide you with the tools to protect yourself and your family.